Conisborough Murder – Saved from the Scaffold – Life Imprisonment

January 1907

Mexborough and Swinton Times January 5, 1907

The Conisborough Murder
Dagnall saved from the Scaffold
Penal Servitude for Life

James Dagnall was to have been executed at Wakefield Gaol on New Year’s Day, for the murder of Dalton, at Conisborough, had the law taken its course.

The Home Secretary (Mr Herbert Gladstone), however, having been petitioned by residents in Conisborough, and the adjoining neighbourhood, felt justified in advising his Majesty to exercising his clemency, and the sentence has been commuted to penal servitude for life.

News of the reprieve was received on Saturday morning, when Mr Muir Wilson, of Sheffield, the solicitor who acted for Dagnall throughout his trial, received the following communication from the Home official.

Whitehall, 28th December, 1906

With reference to the petitions submitted by you on behalf of James Dagnall, who is lying under sentence of death in Wakefield prison, I am directed to aquaint you that the Secretary of State has felt warranted under all the circumstances in advising his Majesty to respite their capital sentence with a view to its communication to penal servitude for life.
I am, sir,
your obedient servant,
C. E. Tromp

The details of the crime are still fresh in the memory of the public. While a man named James Dalton served a term of two years imprisonment, his wife lived with Dagnall, first as his housekeeper and then as his paramour. There seems no doubt that he grew passionately fond of the woman, and when her husband came to claim her he could not bear the four of giving her up. He appealed to her to continue to live with him, and several times threatened to murder her and her husband should she refuse.

One night when they were searching for lodgings, Dagnall asked them to pass the night at his house. In the dead of night he stole upstairs, grasping a razor in one hand and a hatchet in the other, and cut Dalton’s throat, and wounded the wife in the arm. The woman’s injury was not serious, but the man died a few days later.

At the trial, which was before Mr Justice Bigham, the jury recommended the prisoner to mercy; and steps were at once taken by Mr Muir Wilson to secure a reprieve.
Dagnall had been in excellent spirits. He had eating and slept well, and seem to appreciate the daily walk which he was permitted to have in the prison yard. He has been very attentive to the ministrations of the chaplain, and the other day he took holy Communion.

When informed of his reprieve by the governor of Wakefield prison, Dagnall displayed no sign of pleasure, and stated that he was quite prepared to meet his death on Tuesday morning.